Last week Governor Christie vetoed a measure that would’ve changed the mandatory release practices of inmates. His veto reinstated the parole board’s discretion in who should be released, allowing a return to common sense parole practices rather than mandatory releases.
The legislation Christie vetoed was set to change the number of years a inmate has to wait before a mandatory parole review. It would have set the term at ten years as opposed to the current wait-time of three. In his veto statement, Christie said the legislation didn’t address the bigger problem of the current release practices.
Interestingly, backers of the legislation and Christie himself are both being motivated by public safety, so they say. Two parolees released through the current system recently went on to commit murders; something both the vetoed legislation and Christie says has to be fixed.
Christie suggests the traditional parole board practices are the best, a common sense approach. Instead, the system which requires parole hearings at specific stages and features a mandatory early release program, “values bureaucracy over rehabilitation at the expense of innocent victims.”
His veto paves the way to repeal the mandatory release provisions. But one has to wonder, if these provisions are ultimately repealed, will New Jersey prisons experience even more crowding as fewer are released?
Christie is right that traditional parole board discretion is better focused on determining who is worthy of an early release. Under the current situation, someone who goes to prison and consistently gets in trouble may be given the same opportunities of release as someone who participates in programming without any rule violations. The current situation doesn’t allow for the parole board to really screen who would be low risk for reentry into the community.
According to NewJerseyNewsroom.com, law enforcement officials and Republican lawmakers alike support repealing the current system, all from the reported standpoint of public safety. System changes are always controversial, as the public has little sympathy for anyone convicted of criminal charges. On the other side of the coin, however, is the potential costs such a repeal would usher in and so far there’s been no indication of what those costs could be.